No one anticipates that their ex-partner is going to let them down or disappoint their child. But unfortunately, in situations of divorce and breakups, it’s a real possibility. If your former partner is celebrating his or her birthday far away, missing a school event, or failing to meet commitments made, children can get the impression that their parent simply doesn’t care or isn’t interested in them. When this happens, it’s not only devastating for them, but also for parents who must watch their kids struggle with feelings of abandonment and confusion. How do parents cope?
Figure Out Where Expectations Are Not Being Met
The first step towards addressing an issue is to figure out where expectations are not being met. Evaluate whether the expectations you are setting are reasonable, considering what the situation is with your ex. They might not be able to commit to certain events due to other responsibilities they have or they may need more time than expected to come through with certain commitments. Parents should be aware of how difficult this stage in life can be for the other parent and be willing to make allowances if possible.
Talk to Your Ex
Once the parent has established why their ex is not meeting their expectations, it is important to have a conversation with them. Talking about why the circumstances are the way they are and helping the other parent to understand the perspective of their child can help encourage them to make different decisions in the future. It is also important for both parents to show respect for each other and agree that any communication about the children should happen through them and not through third parties.
If conversations between parents are not yielding any positive results or if they become heated, the parents might benefit from the involvement of a mediator. A facilitator can ensure that the conversation goes in the right direction without any acrimony or rancor. Mediators are usually highly experienced and specialise in resolving parenting disputes, so involving them can be very beneficial in such cases.
Stay Focused on the Child's Welfare
It is natural to feel a sense of anger, resentment or frustration when dealing with difficult ex-partners, but it is important that parents stay focused on their child’s best interests and not get caught up in emotions. Making any sort of negative comment about the other parent or indirectly disparaging them in front of the child would likely be detrimental. Instead, parents should take this opportunity to model the behaviour that they hope the child will follow going forward.
Work on Communication with the Child
When an ex is disappointing a child, it is important that the custodial parent provides support and reassurance to the child to help them cope with the situation. Letting them know that it is okay to feel frustrated and sad, but that it does not reflect badly on them, can help them to move beyond the disappointment.
If the child wants more contact or visits with their other parent, parents should involve their child in discussions to figure out a way to make this happen. Parents should also be supportive of healthy contact between a child and their other parent while making sure that the child’s safety and emotional needs are being met.
Finally, be patient. The situation leading up to an ex disappointing a child could be highly complex and the parents might have to work through many issues before any resolution can be reached. In the meanwhile, honest communication with both the ex-partner and the children is key to the success of co-parenting.